NZME’s commercial director Sandra King says her team was “quite shocked” when it was informed that Countdown would be significantly reducing ad spend in press advertising.
“Newspapers in this market are still really strong,” she says. “The audiences are still massive.”
Looking at the most recent readership figures, the Herald still attracts a daily readership of 425,000 people. And although this is down from the 480,000 recorded a year earlier, this number is still large enough to convince King that newspapers still have an important role to play in marketing (NZME also has a range of other regional papers in its network). Newspapers (and magazines) have long claimed that not all impressions are created equal and a paid-for audience is more engaged, therefore making the advertising more effective. But in an age of efficiency, if the same number of eyeballs can be bought for less, cost often seems to win out.
“It’s not digital vs. newspapers. It’s about the client having as many touch points as possible. If you miss the newspaper pipe, you’re actually missing a great deal of reach and frequency.”
King advises against a strategy that purposefully veers away from a specific channel, saying that decisions shouldn’t be made on what the channel is but rather on basis who’s being reached and on the basis of campaign objectives. And she says that research has shown newspapers to be very effective in the retail sector.
“We know that from a retail perspective, people still go to newspapers for product and price,” King says. “So not having that on the schedule is, we believe, a difficult thing for the client, because they are going to miss out on a significant reach and quite a lot of frequency.”
But just because Progressive has pulled out of press advertising doesn’t mean that NZME will be losing out on the full share of that ad spend.
Countdown is currently looking into new places to spend its budget and NZME will obviously hope to attract some of that money back into its other channels.
This week, Countdown has run hero ads on nzherald.co.nz, which at least shows that NZME is maintaining its commercial partnership with Progressive.
“Obviously, we are working with the agency and client to give them the very best delivery for what they’ve opted to do,” says King. “And we’ll continue to push newspaper where we can along with our other assets.”
Countdown marketing manager Bridget Lamont told StopPress that the retailer would not significantly reduce investment in mailers and catalogues.
Asked whether this would ensure that newspaper audience is still reached, King was doubtful.
“Catalgoues can’t do that job,” she says. “Catalogues just arrive in the letterbox with all the other catalogues that come in. The share of voices is massive. And the perception of value that a catalogue gives is very different to the value that a newspaper gives.”
And King also says that the connection newspapers have with local communities shouldn’t be underestimated.
“The community story is key,” she says. “You usually aren’t able to go to the net and find out what your local council is doing about the beach. You still have to go to your local papers for that.”
Although Progressive has cut print for the current financial year, budgets can change. And as Foodstuffs' Steve Bayliss said Air New Zealand did return to print, at least to some degree, after previously leaving it. A few years back, The Warehouse is thought to have followed a similar strategy.
StopPress also approached Fairfax for comment about Progressive's decision, but spokesperson Emma Carter said: "As you'd expect, due to client confidentiality, it's not appropriate for us to discuss individual clients and their spend with you."